Introducing: Fresh Air | Specialising in Creative Radio

4 Fresh Air logo (smaller)


Fresh Air loves radio with a passion. A passion that burns fierce like a meteor streaking across the night sky. But not one of those meteors that smash into crowded cities. Or one that burns up on entry and fizzles out. Our passion is more like a giant marshmallow-ey meteor that bounces gently across the ocean creating heart-shaped ripples that reach all corners of the earth. Because Fresh Air loves radio that creates ripples.


In other words, Fresh Air is a specialist creative resource devoted purely to the creation of compelling radio advertising. The venture was recently begun by Stephen Burke (formerly the co-owner and creative director of Bester Burke) as a way to focus on the thing he loves most about advertising, and that, if you haven’t guessed it yet, is writing radio. We chatted to Stephen to find out more:


Tell us more about your new venture, Fresh Air, and how it came to be?


Essentially, two paths converged…


Path one – I found myself at a point in my career where I was doing less writing/creating and more damage control. Fresh Air is an attempt to get back to what I enjoy doing most. Writing radio.


I’ve always enjoyed writing radio more than any other medium. I like the solitude and total immersion it requires. With other mediums you tend to work with a creative partner. Radio requires uninterrupted concentration and single-minded focus. I prefer to work this way.


Path two – I think, with a few exceptions, the quality of radio advertising is poor at the moment. I don’t think it’s being written by professionals. I think radio has become ‘brochure-like’ in its approach to imparting information. Radio is often the sacrificial lamb that gets offered up for the sake of keeping other high-profile mediums pure.


So the timing for Fresh Air is right. Also I think that creative specialisation makes one sharper, more self-critical and more open to challenging norms. It forces an environment where you’re more likely to surprise yourself.


What will you carry through from your past experiences at agencies BBDO, McCann Erickson, Ogilvy, TBWA\Hunt Lascaris, as well as Bester Burke in this new venture? On the other hand, in what ways will Fresh Air be a departure from anything you’ve done before?


I’ve been fortunate to work at great agencies with great people and clients. These companies defined our creative industry. Fresh Air can only benefit from collective wisdom picked up along the way. It will be different however in that the creative process will be leaner and quicker, more adaptive. Brands are expected to be more interesting in how they project themselves.


Why do you believe that radio advertising in South Africa is in need of a boost?


If you listen to the radio for a while, it’s as though everyone just gave up. No one seems to be trying anymore. I think there’s a lot of fear about. And it’s resulting in bland, middle-of-the-road vanilla radio. The crazy thing is that we do have the talent. It’s just not allowed expression at the moment.


How do you intend to, as is part of Fresh Air’s manifesto, “create advertising that lives beyond its flighting duration”?


It’s always the challenge for creative people… do the work that gets talked about. Ads that become part of popular culture are the ads that take risks. Having said that, it’s not about being controversial for the sake of it. Sometimes humour works. Sometimes it’s about being smart. Or profound. Or cheeky. Or challenging. As long as it’s done in the name of the brand and treats the listener with a degree of respect. Too much advertising on radio at the moment is condescending puffery. It’s insulting.


What are some of the other challenges of radio advertising?


To stay relevant in a media world that is exploding with opportunity. To become a part of the brand building media mix instead of the stand-alone promotional tool. To match the quality of the creative content that surrounds the commercial. To put more personality into the medium.


What is it that you enjoy most about the medium?


There’s spontaneity around good radio that’s infectious. The production process is pretty immediate so you can take advantage of the news of the day in a tactical manner. You can do pilots – expose the weak spots and hone the idea. You can bend and twist a campaign as it unfolds. And because there are so much fewer people involved in the production process, the idea usually remains intact.


Of all the radio commercials you’ve worked on, which stand out for you as highlights?


Car Magazine will always be close to my heart. I think we broke some rules with Lentheric Solo deodorant. Early Bioplus was very silly but still makes me smile. The Power of Sound campaign for SABC Radioactive was a definite highlight. And currently I’m very proud of the Alexander Forbes campaign where to demonstrate a unique approach to wealth creation, we sold advertising space in our own ads to other brands. Naturally the campaigns I love the most are the ones that never ran.


Are you currently working on any projects that you can tell us about?


I’m working on gaining new clients.


What is your vision for Fresh Air going forward?


To do the kind of work that makes Fresh Air a desirable brand for marketers.


Website coming soon to:




The challenge was to build an intrinsically based platform that stood stand in the formal over-the-counter pharmaceutical category. This spot (as did others in the campaign) took advantage of what was happening in the sporting world at the time. In this case, Mike Schutte, a notoriously dirty South African boxing champion, was featured.





Part in an extensive campaign that took ordinary, rather technical assembly line facts and demonstrated VW’s commitment to enduring quality in a charming, personable manner.





The brief was to demonstrate the power of sound as a creative tool. The target market was specifically the creative fraternity. The concept was to turn the entire meaning of a piece of dialogue by changing one sound effect.





The first fragrance brand to be built purely through the medium of radio. A much loved campaign that positioned the brand as one of French origin. And helped make it the number one deodorant brand in South Africa.



HANG TEN “Salute to the Relaxed Way”


When Hang Ten returned to South Africa, the immediate task at hand was re-establish the brand’s credentials as an authentic Californian surf brand. An ‘Anthem to the Relaxed Way’ campaign was spearheaded by radio.





Sometimes jingles work. Sometimes they should be given wide berth. The animated TV commercial that launched Hoity Toity by Lenthéric and its many variants over the next decade started off as a humble jingle.





By using children to teach their parents the basics concerning energy conservation, we were able to educate and communicate across all LSM and language groups with one consistent message.



CAR MAGAZINE “FNB Parody” (Tactical)


Car Magazine has a history of creating radio spots that take their cue from the news of the day. This spot was created as a parody of an FNB TV commercial that delivered ‘A Message from the children of South Africa’. The FNB commercial was heavily criticised by the ANC and was eventually taken off air. Car Magazine was happy to step in…



CAR MAGAZINE “Pope Retires” (Tactical)


Another tactical spot for Car Magazine. This one was created at the time when Pope Benedict XVI retired and the world’s attention was on the Vatican.



ALEXANDER FORBES – “Sponsored by Levis”


By selling space in their commercials, we were able to demonstrate Alexander Forbes’ unique approach to wealth generation. Other brands paid for the right to be featured in Forbes’ commercials – offsetting production costs and showing how innovative thinking can result in financial reward.



VAWTER “Book Club”


With the accent on its pure Russian heritage, Vawter radio commercials show an understanding of the more sophisticated female target market in an amusing and quirky fashion.




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